RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina said Thursday it is abandoning its plan to issue pink-striped driver's licenses to certain illegal immigrants, beset by mounting criticism of the specially designed IDs.
The state learned that such licenses are easier and more efficient to produce if they're similar to the traditional licenses issued to other drivers, said spokesman Mike Charbonneau at the state Transportation Department.
"My understanding is that when we're looking at that design, at the end of the day, we had to make sure we were following the letter of the law in the most efficient way possible," Charbonneau said.
In place of the proposed pink-striped design, the license is to look like the regular license issued to citizens save for words added in bold red letters: ""LEGAL PRESENCE / NO LAWFUL STATUS" and "LIMITED TERM."
The controversial original proposal also had included the phrase "NO LAWFUL STATUS."
The state will begin issuing the licenses Monday to young adults participating in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama administration initiative grants valid federal work permits to qualified applicants brought as children to the U.S. without legal authorization.
The American Civil Liberties Union, Hispanic groups and others had criticized the pink-striped design proposal as singling out holders of that identification for possible discrimination and humiliation.
Jewish leaders also joined the outcry. Four rabbis had earlier made plans to hand-deliver a letter Friday to Gov. Pat McCrory asking him to scrap the pink-striped design. They said they would still deliver the letter anyway. It was signed by more than 70 Jewish leaders nationwide.
"Our efforts do not end when major discrimination turns into minor discrimination; it ends when we are 100 percent positive that discriminatory policies will not go into effect in our state," said Rabbi Eric Solomon of Raleigh's Beth Meyer Synagogue.
They said they were especially disturbed that the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles would begin issuing the licenses Monday, eve of the Jewish holiday Passover.
The state Attorney's General Office had said in January that state law requires the state to issue drivers' licenses to qualified applicants brought to the U.S. as children without legal authorization. State transportation officials had said they would abide by that decision, then unveiled the specially designed licenses.
McCrory had previously supported pink-striped licenses, saying in February that he signed off on what he called the "pragmatic compromise" unveiled by Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. McCrory had said the licenses must be clearly marked to prevent the bearer from accessing government services or registering to vote.
A McCrory spokeswoman said Thursday the governor supports the new design.
Raul Pinto, staff attorney with the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the official decision to adopt a standard blue-striped license was "a huge step in the right direction."
But Pinto said his group still opposes the "NO LAWFUL STATUS" tag on the licenses and will keep monitoring whether it's "going to affect people in their everyday lives."
Democratic state Rep. Rick Glazier, who opposed the pink-striped design by co-sponsoring a bill against it in the General Assembly, said the pressure of public opinion appeared to be a factor in the change of plans.
The pink-striped license was "inherently discriminatory on its face" and would have humiliated any holder, Glazier added.
The Division of Motor Vehicles sent out a news release about plans to begin issuing the licenses starting Monday, but without mentioning the decision in the release. The design change was only evident in an attachment to the emailed release.
Jose Torres-Don, 25, of Carrboro, who is applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said he didn't really care about the style or color of the driver's license he receives.
A member of the NC Dream Team — a group that advocates for young people brought to the U.S. unlawfully and seeking a path to citizenship — Torres-Don said he just hopes the license uproar brings favorable attention to the plight of young people seeking proper documentation.
"What we ultimately seek is to drive without fear," he said. "We want to have a real conversation about how (being) undocumented is a problem."